Electronic cigarettes have become the center of enormous controversy in 2014. While vapers sing the praises of ecigs as an alternative to tobacco cigarettes, politicians are fighting hard to have them restricted, regulated, and even banned. This week, more than half of the US Attorneys General joined forces in a letter that urged the FDA to crack down on ecigs.
The officials argued that ecigs could pose a potential threat to America’s young people. They claimed that harsh and immediate action was needed to prevent any further damage or future addictions. The attorneys general want to see ecigs restricted in the same manner as tobacco cigarettes with banned advertising, minimal flavor availability, and warning labels. In April, the FDA released their first proposal for electronic cigarette regulations, but there has not been an official ruling to date. After viewing the FDA’s proposal, the 29 attorneys general encouraged the regulating agency to take a more heavy-handed approach. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said, “While we applaud the FDA’s proposal to start regulating these tobacco products, it falls far short of what is needed to protect our youth.”
Even if his intentions are in the right place, Schneiderman is obviously uninformed about ecig technology. Electronic cigarettes are not tobacco products. They are actually quite the opposite! As tobacco-free devices, they do not emit smoke and do not have any combustion involved so thousands of carcinogens are eliminated. This is the primary reason why many smokers switch to ecigs as a harm reduction method.
The FDA has not released any public comment on this week’s letter from state officials, but they insist that the issue is still under careful consideration. “If e-cigarettes have reduced toxicity, help smokers quit, or do not introduce adolescents to tobacco use, they may have the potential to reduce disease and death. However, if e-cigarettes prompt young people to start using them separately or with other conventional tobacco products, or discourage or delay quitting tobacco use, then the public health impact could be negative.”
This approach to regulations is concerning to vapers because it leaves a lot of room for speculation rather than relying on scientific fact. Based on the FDA’s comments, it seems that ecigs could be treated in a negative way simply based on the potential for vaping to attract teens or dual users. If products are going to be regulated based on potential outcomes, then there are many medications that should be heavily restricted right along with electronic cigarettes. After all, how many routine prescription drugs have the potential to turn deadly if they are misused? In the same way, ecigs can be very beneficial to smokers looking for an alternative to tobacco, but they also have the potential to be problematic if they are misused.
Rather than focusing on potential problems, it would be more productive for the FDA and concerned attorneys general to look at raising awareness about the proper way to use vaping devices. For now, we will have to wait and see how the FDA will respond to this week’s letter and what the official regulations will look like when they are finally released.
Do you think the FDA will side with government officials and take a harsher approach to electronic cigarette regulations?